Meet Our 2020 Summer Intern!

This summer, Play Like a Girl has an excited and dedicated intern working to support our staff in incredible ways. She will help us execute virtual programs, curate content, work with our supporters and so much more. Needless to say, she's a crucial part of the Play Like a Girl team. Meet our phenomenal summer intern, Hanako Batt.

Hana Batt

Hometown: Natick, Massachusetts

School: Vanderbilt University

Major: Psychology

 

How has sport impacted your life?

I started swimming for my summer league when I was six years old and fell in love with the community and camaraderie of it. In middle school, I began swimming year round,leaving soccer and field hockey, as it had become my favorite sport. The unconditional support from my team and amazing role models that I had the privilege of being surrounded by in and out of the pool pushed me to embrace challenges, maintain optimism, and lead through action, ultimately bringing me to Vanderbilt University. My incredible teammates here demonstrate every day what it means to give one hundred and ten percent in the water, in the classroom, and as a person. In my two years here so far, I have been inspired, challenged, and encouraged to be my best self in a way I cannot imagine without swimming. 

What is a typical day like for you as a student-athlete?

Typically, I wake up at six AM for morning practice, usually eating a snack while heading over to the pool. At eight thirty, when we finish swimming, I rush over to the locker room/athletic facility to change for class and eat breakfast in the dining hall there with my team. Around ten, I have my first of two or three classes of the day. After class, at one PM, I grab a quick lunch, on the way over to the athletic facility for our team lift and our second swim practice of the day. When that’s over, I usually stay in the athletic facility, heading over to the academic center to meet with my advisor and go over my workload for the week and do some homework or attend a tutor session. At five thirty PM, I head over to the dining hall to eat with my teammates. Afterwards, I either go to the library or back to the academic center to finish up studying, or else back to the dorms to unwind until around nine thirty, when I usually go to bed after some meditation or journaling. 

What aspect of your sport do you enjoy most?

The team aspect of swimming is 100% my favorite part. There is no way that we could push through the grueling workouts and bring the energy that we do to competition without the unwavering support of each other both in and out of the water. Whether we are dancing crazily around the pool deck before a race, singing at the top of our lungs in the locker room, or studying together for an exam, the love and support for one another is felt. I know I will always belong to this community of empowered, motivated women, and I am so thankful for that. 

How does science, technology, engineering and math intersect with your sport?

Swimming is an extremely technical sport. Everything from what we wear to the angle we put our hands into the water is based on precise calculations to maximize efficiency and minimize drag through the water. Our racing suits, caps, and goggles are designed with all that taken into consideration and we spend time learning about the physics at play when making changes to our technique. Also, calculating time intervals and counting laps in our heads during each practice tends to be a math challenge in itself!

If you could trade your uniform for any job for just one day, what would it be and why?

If I could, I would trade my swimsuit to be a summer camp counselor for a day. I love spending time with kids (sometimes I feel like I’m still one myself!) and getting to participate in summer camp activities, as I did growing up. I volunteered at a day camp for a few summers in high school and had a blast making friends with, entertaining, and helping all of the campers each session.  

What one piece of advice from a coach do you live and play by?

One piece of advice from a coach that has resonated with me over the years is ‘fall in love with the journey, not the destination.’ He reminded me of this constantly during a season in which I had set a lot of lofty goals for myself. Reminding me to simply have fun with my teammates each day and find satisfaction in swimming a practice well, rather than searching for those things in the far-off, potential future kept me in touch with why I fell in love with swimming to begin with. I ended up accomplishing every single goal I had set for myself that season, while also having the most fun ever. I embody this mindset in all aspects of my life, reminding myself that I can be genuine in what I choose to spend my time doing. Finding joy in what you do each day, will give you more drive and stamina to accomplish your goals than anything else could, and realizing that definitely changed the way I approached school, my relationships, and everything else. 

What’s on your pre-game (meet) playlist?

Beyoncé is definitely my go-to for behind the blocks. Really anything upbeat and hype will get me going -- DaBaby and Trippie Redd are some of my other favorites. My team also loves blasting EDM on our speakers during warm up to set the mood. 

Want to be a part of the next class of interns at Play Like a Girl? You're in luck; fall internships just went live! Apply here today.


Announcing New Board Members

Play Like a Girl is pleased to announce the addition of six new members to the Board of Directors, effective July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2023: Jessica Bliss, journalist for The Tennessean; Judith Engelsen-Daub, Vice President of Client Success Organization at GEODIS; Mon-Kisha Porter, Customer Receivables Manager at Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation; Ashlie Summer, Vice President of Operations at FLEETCOR Technologies; and, Vibhav Veldore, Sales and Marketing Director — Agriculture & Off the Road Tires (LATAM) at Bridgestone Americas Inc. Also joining the Board as an ex-officio member is Michaela Kirk, Business Development Engineer at Turner Construction. Kirk will chair the newly-established Play Like a Girl Young Professionals Board. For more information about our team, visit iplaylikeagirl.org/team.

The Board provides leadership for carrying out the Organization’s mission to advance the health and empowerment of girls and women everywhere through sport. Dr. Chevis Shannon, Director of the Surgical Center for Kids at Monroe Carroll Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University, serves as chair of the 2020 Board of Directors.

More will be shared on these new Directors over the next several days. Please follow their stories on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @iplaylikeagirl.


Meet Kristen: Real-Life Bat Girl

Bat conservationist Kristen Lear has always rooted for the underdog, and bats are one of the biggest underdogs out there. With many misconceptions about bats, Kristen’s mission is to share the importance of these amazing animals and to show everyone just how cool they are!

When Kristen was 12, she knew she wanted to do something to help bats so she built and put up bat houses for her Girl Scout Silver Award project. That first project launched her into a career as a bat conservation scientist, working to protect bat species around the world.

Kristen earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Zoology at Ohio Wesleyan University, and is currently completing her PhD in Integrative Conservation at the University of Georgia. She has led international conservation teams for endangered bats in the US, Australia, and Mexico, and leads local bat house projects in the communities in which she lives. 

Now an American Association for the Advancement of Science If/Then Ambassador and Lifetime Girl Scout, Kristen helps younger Girl Scouts and other community groups build their own bat houses to help bats in their own backyards.

Want to ask Kristen all your batty questions and learn how YOU can contribute to bat conservation? Register for Kristen’s bat house building workshop at #GirlsRockSTEM, the 2020 Play Like a Girl Summit on March 7th. In her workshop, Kristen will teach girls to build bat houses using power tools. The finished bat houses will help provide safe homes for bats in Athens, Georgia as part of the Athens Bat Connection. Kristen is excited to share her passion for bats with summit attendees.

Follow Kristen and her bat adventures on Instagram @batsforlife_kristen and Twitter @BatsForLife.


Play Like a Girl Honors Goes Mobile

For the first time ever, the silent auction at the Play Like a Girl Honors is going mobile, allowing participants both at the gala and around the world to bid on a host of incredible items with proceeds from the event benefiting middle school girls.

The auction, which features more than 20 one-of-a-kind lots ranging from signed memorabilia and travel packages to game tickets to the Nashville Sounds and Nashville Soccer Club, will be held on Monday, November 26, exclusively using Handbid, an online platform that allows users to bid from their smartphones.

The Handbid app will replace the pen-and-paper auctions of the past. Whether you’re at the gala, at home or on the go, using Handbid is simple:

First, iPhone and Android users should visit the iTunes App Store or the Google Play store to download the free Handbid app. Once the app is opened, tap “GET STARTED” on the home screen, then follow the instructions to create and verify your account. (Be sure to use your cell phone as the phone number!)

Once you’re logged in, select “Play Like a Girl Honors (2018)” from the list of available auctions, and you’re ready to start bidding. The auction closes Monday, November 26 shortly after the 7 p.m. dinner program, so be sure to turn notifications on so you know if you’ve been outbid.

Still need help? Find a Play Like a Girl volunteer at the Silent Auction table. We’ll have iPads on hand and can help you get set up. And if you’re coming to the gala and are worried about connectivity while you enjoy the event, fear not: the Marriott offers free public WiFi, so you’ll always be online. The WiFi code is PLAGHONORS.

Don’t have a smartphone? We’ve got you covered too. Users can also access the auction through a web browser by clicking here.

This year’s auction will feature a once-in-a-lifetime one-on-one opportunity with the powerhouse Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire businessman Mark Cuban, and more. To see the complete list of items and place your bid, visit: www.handbid.com.

Item and experience highlights include:

  • Autographed sports memorabilia from Madison Keys, Maria Sharapova and tennis legend Billie Jean King;
  • Sit courtside at a Dallas Mavericks game with owner Mark Cuban;
  • The opportunity to own a guitar autographed by CMA Entertainer of the Year, Keith Urban;
  • An exclusive meet-and-greet on the set with the cast of CBS’s Blue Bloods including Tom Selleck;
  • Visit News Channel 2 studios and spend a day in the life of Chief Meteorologist Danielle Breezy;
  • Attend a 2019 Nashville Sounds game as a VIP guest;
  • VIP experience at the 2019 Taste of Tennis Miami with tickets to the Miami Open;
  • Attend the 2019 U.S. Open in NYC;
  • And much more.

The money raised through the auction will go to Play Like a Girl, which aims to advance the leadership and empowerment of girls by creating opportunities for girls in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and sports. During the Play Like a Girl Honors, supporters and viewers will be encouraged to make direct donations to Play Like a Girl by visiting the website: www.iplaylikeagirl.org.

Since 2004, Play Like a Girl been committed to advancing the leadership and empowerment of girls and women in our community. For nearly 15 years, the organization has offered middle school girls an eight-week afterschool program and summer camp opportunities focusing on confidence, college preparation and career readiness.

In 2018, the Play Like a Girl camp program evolved into a year-round corporate engagement initiative that unites corporate volunteers and students to prepare the younger generation for future success in STEM and sports careers.

To host a half- or full-day STEM and Sports Saturday corporate event for girls, companies in Nashville and surrounding areas can email [email protected].

Bidding ends at 7:15 p.m., November 26.


play like a girl honors gala

Behind the Scenes Look at Play Like a Girl Honors Gala Prep

It takes a team to plan a night, an experience like the Play Like a Girl Honors Gala. While that may sound a bit clichéd, it’s true. Behind the scenes, it takes a team that comes together through challenges, unexpected turns and a myriad of details to do what needs to be done, and have fun while doing it. To become the best kind of team, a true community of can-doers dedicated to one goal: celebrating the contributions of leading women and men in sports and the girls they inspire.

Take a look at how we’re preparing to knock the Play Like a Girl Honors Gala out of the park on Monday, November 26 at Marriott Hotel Cool Springs in Franklin, Tennessee.

Behind the Scenes with Play Like a Girl 

The First Play

Honors Gala preparation began on Saturday, August 18, 2018 at a watch party for Trisha Yearwood’s “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen” airing on the Food Network. This particular episode featured Trisha and her sister, Beth, as they volunteered for snack duty at a Play Like a Girl camp where they taught how to make Easy Snack Skewers and then had fun playing with the girls!

It was here that the Planning Committee was officially formed with volunteers from across industries at some of the biggest companies in the city, from Nissan and Schneider Electric to Vanderbilt, NC2 Media and CBS.

Volunteers were separated into teams in these functional areas: Marketing & PR, Production, Logistics and Procurement. Within these teams, volunteers have done planning work to execute Play Like a Girl Founder and CEO Dr. Kimberly Clay’s vision for the Honors Gala.

Our volunteers are supported by an eight-member Host Committee chaired by Kelly Ford and Danielle Breezy along with Honorary Chair Trisha Yearwood who will be in attendance at the Honors Gala.

Host Committee

  • Deon Brown
  • Sara Chain
  • Laura Lubin
  • Sheila O’Neil
  • Lindsey Paola
  • Nada Taha
  • Destiny Whitmore
  • Kim Wilson

In addition, our Gala Committee includes:

  • Leah Alexander-Otukpe
  • Allison Bailey
  • Carla Brookins
  • Caylin Bursch
  • Kristina Carter
  • Char Dennis
  • Katelin Ford
  • Lynne Garrison
  • Julie Herman
  • Allyson Lanahan
  • Janessa Lewis
  • Tracy Saunier
  • Kelsey Trainor, Esq
  • Kiarra Walden
  • Ashley West
  • LaPourche White
  • Olivia Woodbine

Getting the Ball Rolling

Our team started out strong with a video shoot and interviews with all the Honorees to show at the event itself. We also captured footage of eight of our girls talking about their sport and their experiences with Play Like a Girl.

We then began reaching out to local companies for Silent Auction donations and have worked with some wonderful people with whom we’ve developed strong relationships.

“It’s exciting on my part to find people throughout the area that have already heard of us and really want to donate to help our cause. It makes this so much fun to do.”

- Allison Bailey with NC2 Media, Volunteer

A special thanks to those who’ve donated products and services:

The Full Court Press

Play Like a Girl social media has been infused with Honors Gala content and we reached a milestone in October: 6,000 page likes! By and large we have grown our followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“Social is picking up traction; people are excited about the Honors Gala and a lot of people are sharing content, more so than ever so it’s really an exciting time for Play Like a Girl.”

- Janessa Lewis with SmileDirectClub, Volunteer

A New Play

Being 100 percent volunteer run, one thing we face, as do many non-profits, is a struggle with organization, communication and accountability. Although volunteer Kiarra Walden joined the Honors Gala planning a few weeks in, she sought to remedy that struggle immediately by creating a Slack channel for free through their nonprofit program and also integrated MeisterTask with the channel.

Now communication is streamlined; we can see all the tasks that need to be completed, who’s assigned and if something isn’t done, another can easily jump in. We’re all on the same page!

“It’s so much more efficient to have a central communication hub, outside of email. And this is something we can use beyond the Honors Gala. It will help Play Like a Girl tremendously going forward not only by engaging volunteers, but with everything we do!”

- Kiarra Walden with The Crichton Group, Volunteer

Down to the Wire

With the Play Like a Girl Honors Gala now just a few weeks out our volunteers are working on our fabulous Silent Auction items; taking photos and getting descriptions ready as we prepare to launch our pre-bidding app which will run until November 25, the night before the event. You can also bid at the event!

And we’re busy with all sorts of last minute details; doing whatever it takes to create an event to remember even when crisis strikes. In mid-October when Dr. Clay suffered a stroke, our core volunteer team stepped up, made sure nothing fell through and stayed on schedule and on task.

“It’s been an honor to work with all these women, their support has been such a blessing to Play Like a Girl, and to me personally. Due to the leadership of Allison Bailey and Tracy Saunier, we will come close to doing an at cost event, a first in our almost 15 year history. Another milestone we hope to achieve is to bring on three new staff members; in our history we’ve never had a paid staff person. We’ve been 100 percent volunteer run. Our entire fundraising goal this year is to pay those three salaries.”

-Dr. Kimberly Clay, Founder and CEO, Play Like a Girl

Join us at the Play Like a Girl Honors Gala. The event will feature a cocktail hour with open bar, passed hors d’oeuvres, live music, red carpet and more. Get your ticket today!

Follow the event on Facebook for updates and other information.


Introducing the 2018 Play Like a Girl Honorees

In the sports world, there are many stars. Although the most recognizable ones may be the athletes, the ones who shine the brightest are often not athletes at all, at least not professionally. They are the ones who work behind the scenes--those who coach, who innovate, who teach and who inspire all of us to game changers.

We are thrilled to recognize some of our local stars at the upcoming Play Like a Girl Honors Gala on Monday, November 26 at Marriott Hotel Cool Springs in Franklin, Tennessee. These extraordinary people were chosen for their example and impact on the health, confidence and leadership skills of girls everywhere. In short, they’ve shown us how to change the game.

Introducing the 2018 Play Like a Girl Honorees

Bart Brooks – Most Valuable Player Awardplay like a girl honorees

Bart Brooks is in his second season as head coach of the Belmont University women’s basketball program after leading the Bruins to a 31-4 overall record in 2017-18, its best since 1993-94. The success earned the program its first national ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 and Bart the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year as well as Spalding Maggie Dixon NCAA Division I Rookie Coach of the Year. Bart previously spent 11 seasons at DePaul University during which he coached six WNBA draft choices and had nine teams in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Team Academic Top 25. Bart has a master’s degree in Sport Management from Barry University (FL), where he began his coaching career. He and wife Charlene Smith, who played for the WNBA Houston Comets, have two sons, Trey and Tyler.

“Our success is never about me as a coach, it’s all about the toughness and leadership of the young women in our program. They are the true recipients of this award, and they are the reason for the success of our program.”--Bart… Click To Tweet

Game Changers:

Favorite way to play? “With my sons in the backyard—football, basketball, baseball, soccer, tag--it doesn’t get better than that!”

How has sports impacted your life? “Sports gave me confidence in times of adversity. I was challenged constantly in sports, physically, mentally and emotionally pushed, and through all that adversity, I became stronger in all aspects of my life. Sports also taught me how to deal with conflict in a constructive way, how to work together with people to achieve more than I could ever achieve alone.”

What woman in your life has influenced your work most? “My wife; she’s the strongest, toughest, most intelligent, most thoughtful and gentle soul I’ve ever met. Her strength gets me through each day. I couldn’t succeed in my work if she wasn’t my support system. She has the ability to make me feel like our team is unbeatable and that I can do anything as a coach. She is everything to our family; raising our two boys much of the time alone while I’m on the road recruiting, and she does it with unbelievable patience and unwavering love. “

What characteristics helped your players achieve such great success? “Selflessness is a huge key; our players were always about the TEAM. They understood that we were always better as a five-person unit than any of us could have ever been as individuals. Their work ethic and intelligent discipline also set them apart from most teams. We always had players arrive early for practice, and stay late to work on their games.  And we took great pride in being intelligent on the floor, with the discipline to do what would lead us to success on and off the court.”

Kenyatta Bynoe – Trailblazer Awardplay like a girl honorees

Kenyatta Bynoe is an accomplished sports marketing executive with a 20-year career as a thought leader that challenges conventional thinking and a solid track record of engineering innovative, 360-degree marketing strategy. In the past year, her accomplishments have earned her key industry awards including Adweek’s “Most Powerful Women in Sports” and Sports Business Journal’s “Game Changer." Kenyatta has a BS in Public Relations from Central Michigan University and a MS in Integrated Marketing Communications from Eastern Michigan University.  She currently resides in Nashville where she serves as Co-Chair of the Nashville Alumnae Chapter Public Relations Committee for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and mentors with Jalen Rose Leadership Academy.

“In the business world and in life you have any number of opportunities to share your thoughts, voice your opinion and impact change. My job is to find ways to make a difference on every field of play I’m connected to; offering… Click To Tweet

Game Changers:

Female role models growing up? “Coaches, educators and business women inspired me more so by example than with words. I could see in them character traits that I wanted to emulate and levels of success I wanted to achieve. They helped me understand that much more was possible than I had imagined.”

How has sports impacted your life? “Sports provided an early example of teamwork and camaraderie that has translated into every aspect of my life. In addition, sports provided a positive way to channel competitive energy and come together with teammates to pursue a common goal. One of the most valuable lessons I learned is the notion of work ethic and what it takes to “play” at a high level. There is no shortcut around the hard work necessary to succeed or the multiple times you may fall on the road to greatness. But all of this is what makes victory so sweet.”

What does the Trailblazer Award mean to you? “It’s special to me because it symbolizes making the pathway clearer for those who come after me. To be thought of as a pioneer, innovator or trendsetter in this regard means everything. As an African-American woman there are many obstacles that I face in life and in business. Some highly visible, and others, often the most difficult, are the battles I fight in silence. But I continue to fight because I know that young girls need examples of women who come from all walks of life--from humble beginnings, from disadvantage and from poor circumstances--who have overcome.”

What personal traits help you succeed in sports marketing? “One of my personal philosophies is that there is no finish line. When approaching a goal, reevaluate it to determine how you can go to the next level. While you must find periods of rest and reflection along the way, don’t become comfortable or stagnant. There is a degree of fearlessness required to excel, especially in male-dominated careers.  To other women interested in this career path; speak up, stand strong on your position and back it up with data and skill. Most importantly, don’t let rejection of your ideas be fuel for quitting, let it motivate you to go harder the next time.”

Sammie Griffin – Corporate Partner Awardplay like a girl honorees

Sammie Griffin is an Assistant Vice President Treasury Management Sales Analyst at Wells Fargo Bank. She is a graduate of the University of North Alabama with a BBA and an MBA. Sammie currently resides in Brentwood, TN with her eleven-year-old son, Landon. She is passionate about giving back to her community and serves on the Advisory Board and Homeowner’s Selection Committee for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville as well as the Board of Directors for Distinguished Young Women of Music City. She is also President of the Wells Fargo Nashville Volunteer Chapter where she was first introduced to Play Like a Girl. Wells Fargo volunteers now partner with Play Like a Girl to teach financial literacy lessons.

“I love being able to empower and encourage other females. The older I get I understand more and more how important it is for young girls to have someone on their side, motivating them and reminding them that they can do it and they… Click To Tweet

Game Changers:

Favorite way to play? “Dancing and moving freely fills me with so much joy. Now as a boy mom, I’ve been able to venture out into other sports or “play” that I’m not as familiar with but enjoy just as much such as waffle ball and kayaking.”

Female role model growing up? “My mom. She is one of the most selfless individuals I’ve ever known. Her love for me and her family allowed me to always feel safe. She always encouraged me in anything and everything I wanted to do.”

How has sports impacted your life? “I was a part of a competitive cheerleading team my junior and senior year in high school. This showed me how to work with others and also how to resolve conflicts. It allowed me to build close bonds with young women who shared the same passion as me. It gave me self-confidence, made me want to be my best self--and whether I succeeded or failed--I had my team to lift me up or celebrate. I learned that if you really want something; with hard work, you can achieve or obtain it. These things shaped me into the person I am which has led me to where I am in my career.”

Why is it important for girls to understand money?  “Statistics show spending habits start developing at age seven. That’s crazy to think about, but basic knowledge on managing money and understanding credit cards and loans could ultimately be the difference between thriving after high school into college and work or falling into a financial hole. I wish someone had taken the time when I was younger to teach this to me. I personally had some tough financial experiences because of poor decisions I made from lack of education.”

Paula Hood – Corporate Partner Awardplay like a girl honorees

Paula Hood has an extensive background in banking and finance with a Fortune 50 company and over two decades of combined experience in onboarding, developing new talent and community outreach. She has taught in the professional classroom and in school systems across the country delivering training that prepares employees and students for career and financial success. First introduced to Play Like a Girl at a community fundraiser for Junior Achievement, she has since volunteered to provide financial education to young girls, coupled with the motivation to stay active and healthy throughout life. Although not fortunate enough to participate in sports as a young girl, she’s proud to be an example of how physical fitness and education can open doors to a future that once seemed out of reach.

Click To Tweet

Game Changers:

Favorite way to play?  “Running is my therapy. I used to weigh 130 pounds more than now; that’s when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I realized I was just surviving, not living and needed to make a change. I started looking at fun ways to get moving like belly dancing then I joined a walking group. One day I thought ‘why don’t I run to that mailbox?’ I tried it, made it and then began to set goals for myself until I could run a mile. Now I’m running half marathons.”

Female role model growing up?  “My mom. She worked three jobs at times to make sure my sister and I were taken care of. My parents divorced when I was nine and my dad was very present if my sister and I needed anything ourselves, but mom was independent and determined to keep a roof over our head herself. She was just doing what she had to do; that’s the era she came from. I’ve never known anyone to work that hard and I’m not sure she understood the impact that had on me.”

Advice for girls with similar health diagnosis? “For me when I received my diagnosis, I was so afraid if I stopped going, what if I couldn’t start again? That’s when I really became active, to experience it while I could. Then I realized this is what I’ve been missing, so I try to share how physical activity can affect quality of life, prolong a more positive state and perhaps even help as a preventative measure. My previous doctor was always shocked I could be so active; I’d even wear high heels to my appointments to say, ‘See, I’m still walking!’”

What impact do you want to make? “I, as an adult, hid my diagnosis for 14 years for fear of how people would react. Imagine a kid dealing with this situation. I want them to see if you’re battling something, whether physical, mental or emotional, there is a role model out there. And there is strength in sharing your story. You’re struggling yes, but imagine the people you can help if you’re brave enough to say ‘Look at me doing these things they said I’d never be able to do.’ We need more of that.”

Kenisha Rhone – Volunteer of the Yearplay like a girl honorees

Kenisha Rhone is Director of Digital Media & Social Strategy at Belmont University. She is heavily involved in numerous professional organizations as well as in community service throughout Nashville. Kenisha is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., serves on the Greater Nashville Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure steering committee and volunteers frequently to speak to youth groups including the Girls Scouts of Greater Nashville. Previous roles include serving as Sports Information Coordinator at Tennessee State University and as an Athletic Communications Assistant at the University of Pennsylvania. Kenisha began her career in sports through internships with the St. Louis Sports Commission and the St. Louis Gateway Classic before working in media relations for the St. Louis Rams during their successful Super Bowl XXXIV run in 1999-2000.

“Too often we’re told, ‘You can’t do that, you’re a girl.’ I had those moments; I remember them, we all do. But what can we do to change that narrative in the lives of girls? That’s why I do this, to see faces light up when they say… Click To Tweet

Game Changers:

Female role model growing up? “I’m from St. Louis it was Jackie Joyner-Kersee for me. Seeing her do things in the Olympics I never thought people could do; then to see her doing a camp, building a community center in East St. Louis; that made her real. The idea of giving even when you have more than enough, impacted me. I met her once and told her that. She said she wasn’t doing it for the accolades but because it needed to be done; other kids needed the opportunities she was given. It’s always about paying it back.”

How has sports impacted your life? “My parents were both athletes and growing up around sports it never occurred to me there was a lack of opportunities when I was young. That said, I was visually disabled and while my parents allowed me to play some, not having depth perception and trying to figure out how to play in my own way was tough. I didn’t look disabled so it was difficult to get teachers, instructors to understand that I needed some special accommodations. That, plus my parents being terrified I might get hurt and go blind almost made me not want to play. We compromised and I did just about every non-sport-related activity.”

What influences your work at Play Like a Girl? “I wasn’t the first and won’t be the last little kid with a disability so I’m always on the lookout for those playing slightly different. I see it because I did that myself. I’m always conscious of kids who want to play but can’t figure out how because they either don’t have the ability to say or admit something’s wrong, they don’t feel safe enough to say it or don’t have an adult to advocate for them. If they want to play we need to figure out how to get them in the game, period.”

What this experience taught you about yourself? “It reminded me of young disabled me. Being a pre-teen is awkward enough without navigating a disability. It’s very difficult mentally so you can’t imagine the level of empathy I have for kids in that space. To pull these kids aside and say ‘Let me show you how I did this, have you thought about doing it that way?’ I remember wanting someone to say that. It’s often small considerations that just take five minutes extra to think about. They need a voice to say, ‘It’s ok to do it a different way and I will help you.’ Because to play is the most important part.”

To meet our Honorees, join us at the Honors Gala. The event will feature a cocktail hour with open bar, passed hors d’oeuvres, live music, red carpet and more. Get your ticket today!

Follow the event on Facebook for updates and other information.


The Play Like a Girl Honors Gala

Ever wondered what it's like to attend a glittering Nashville charity gala, packed with a sea of glamorously-dressed guests and sparkling with a light of a thousand flashbulbs?

Well you can quit wondering, because we're inviting you to join us at the Play Like a Girl Honors Gala, to be held November 26 at the Marriott Hotel in Cool Springs. And we're going to be giving you a peek at the amazing creative process beforehand since we're just kicking up the pressure on the planning process.

As our biggest and brightest event of the year, the Play Like a Girl Honors is a chance for those of us in the sweaty stench of the work all year long to come together as a community and take a break (just for one night!) from our crazy-busy schedules to live it up and celebrate our accomplishments. Plus, of course, we're celebrating some pretty amazing people.

Hosted by talented ESPN host and commentator Cari Champion, the Play Like a Girl Honors celebrates the  contributions and exceptional service of leading women and men in sports and the girls they inspire. The 2018 honorees include professional tennis player and 2017 U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys, inspirational coach and mentor Bart Brooks (Belmont University Lady Bruins Basketball), global sports brand strategist Kenyatta Bynoe, corporate volunteers Sammie Griffin & Paula Hood (Wells Fargo Bank) and influential sports marketer Kenisha Rhone (Belmont University Athletics).

The Honors has become a staple in Play Like a Girl history by celebrating extraordinary shining stars in sports including Mo'ne Davis, the first girl to earn a win and to pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history, and Kim Mulkey, the first person in NCAA history to win a basketball national championship as a player, assistant coach and head coach, among others.

Without a doubt, a gorgeous affair of this kind takes quite a bit of planning and work. This year Laura Lubin of Ellerslie Interiors is the master planner serving on the Host Committee alongside Co-Chairs Danielle Breezy & Kelly Ford, and we're working together with a team of 40 women volunteers to brainstorm and bring our concept for the gala to life.

Together, we'll transform a mundane conference center into a sophisticated party scene. Once the space design is finalized, we will take you behind the scenes to the design studio of Elizabeth Imber to show you just how amazing this process is, from pulling in elements from the venue and combining them in the event branding to designing the elegant Save the Date announcement and invitation suite using a sleek gold and metallic palette.

We'll be sharing videos along with the final invitation. It is truly a work of art, and we want you to be a part of it. Hope you enjoy the journey as much as we do!

To purchase tickets or host a table, please visit iplaylikeagirl.org/honors.

 


Trisha Yearwood Reports for Snack Duty

Country music superstar and New York Times bestselling cookbook author Trisha Yearwood and her sister, Beth, stopped by Play Like a Girl for snack duty during camp and filmed an episode of her Emmy® Award-winning Food Network series Trisha’s Southern Kitchen.

Trisha and Beth taught our girls how to make Easy Snack Skewers. Inspired by the day, Trisha whipped up some other snacks, too, including Baked Apple Chips with Rainbow Fruit Salsa, Power Wraps with Sweet Potato Hummus and Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins. With help from the campers and camp volunteers Abby Blair and Amanda Webster, Trisha and Beth also had fun playing like girls—volleyball, Double Dutch and all!

The episode of Trisha's Southern Kitchen featuring Play Like a Girl will air Saturday, August 18 at 10:30 a.m. ET, 9:30 CT on Food Network.

Yearwood, a former athlete herself, is known for her ballads about vulnerable young women from a perspective that has been described by music critics as "strong" and "confident". Yearwood is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

Yearwood rose to fame in 1991 with her debut single "She's in Love with the Boy", which became her first No. 1 single and was featured on her self-titled debut album. Yearwood has continued to find success and widespread critical acclaim, selling more than 15 million albums worldwide, and has won three Grammy Awards, three Country Music Association Awards, two Academy of Country Music Awards, an American Music Award, and a Pollstar Industry Award for touring.

On November 26, Trisha will join us again as Honorary Chair at the 8th Annual Play Like a Girl Honors Gala where she will gather a flock of fans and friends as we add a splash of Grammy Award-winning country to our only fundraiser of the year. Don your favorite cocktail dress and raise your glass for this elegant dinner and awards presentation at our host hotel Marriott Hotel Cool Springs in Franklin, Tennessee.

 


Play Like a Girl Hits The Ice

Play Like a Girl Camp strikes again! This time, our super exciting sports destination was the Ford Ice Center, where we had a seriously chilly and extremely FUN afternoon of ice skating.

We started the day off with an inspiring career panel — seriously, girls, the discussion was filled with major info — where we had a chance to meet six amazing women behind our favorite hockey team, the Nashville Predators, before being treated to our own little pizza party. They do EVERYthing for Smashville. In fact, Rebecca King, Senior Director of Community Relations, was hugely responsible for us being there.

We learned about a variety of careers from communications and social media to creative services and corporate partnerships. Before hearing from them, we really had no idea that we girls could do all of that in a male sport. I won't lie...we were a little shy! So, Dr. Kim and our parents asked all the interesting questions. But I promise we learned a lot.

When asked about failure, the ladies encouraged us girls to embrace failure as fuel to build our confidence and keep playing, learning and growing--both on and off the rink. A few talked about the challenges they face being women in a male-dominated workspace. "Often, I'm the only woman boarding that plane. The only woman in the locker room. At times this season, I've had to remind myself that I'm there because I'm qualified. I'm there because I'm great at my job, and I happen to be a woman," said Natalie Aronson, Corporate Communications Manager, who highlighted the important and unique qualities that women offer in the workplace as well as the critical role that male advocates play in the advancement of women in the sports industry.

Next, we gathered in teams of 3-4 for a quick STEM lesson and reaction time test. Using a yardstick and help from teammates, we learned about the importance of quick reflexes and response time in the job of the "goalie" on a hockey team. As you may know, the goalie's job is to prevent the opposing team from scoring a point by stopping the hockey puck from entering the net. Goalies need to have the ability to react extraordinarily fast when a hockey puck is whizzing towards them at 90 miles per hour, or they'll come up toothless, lol.

Resting our arms in the air, we held our thumbs and index fingers about an inch apart while a teammate held the yardstick so that its bottom end was between our two fingers. Without warning, the teammate holding the yardstick dropped the yardstick. And we closed our fingers to catch the yardstick as quickly as we could, repeating the activity until everyone had a chance at it. After each rotation, we wrote down the number of inches the yardstick fell before we caught it and calculated the average to see who had the quickest reaction time.

We learned that an average person catches the yardstick at around 6 to 8 inches. This is a reaction time of .177 to .204 seconds. That's pretty fast, right? But to match the reaction time of a professional hockey goalie, who needs to stop a puck traveling at 90 mph from 20 feet away, we would have to catch the yardstick at 4.5 inches! A hockey puck traveling at 152 feet per second will travel 20 feet in .152 seconds. That's about 1/10th of a second. It was a fun activity but we'd better keep practicing with our yardsticks if we ever want to become a goalie!

Finally, we laced up our skates and hit the ice. Some of us literally hit the ice. (Kidding! Or am I? I’ll never tell.) With the plexiglass surrounding the rink, the smell of stinky feet from the ice skates, cheers and flashing lights from cameras on the sidelines and the slick, shining ice, we might as well have been in a game at Bridgestone Arena. Oh, and did I mention that Gnash hit the ice with us too?! It was sooooo much fun!

After making several rounds (and several Boomerangs; we can’t help ourselves!), we removed all the layers and took it straight outdoors to the playground. We also replaced some of those calories we’d torched on the ice — our butts were feeling it from all the falls — with ice cream and slurpies after playing with new friends under the hot sun.

We want to say a huge thank you to our partners at the Nashville Predators and Predators Foundation that make fun camp days like this possible and to Ford Ice Center for hosting us at their magical ice rink! If you want to get in on our next super fun STEM and sports camp in September (Trust us, you do. It’s gonna be goooood.), then make sure to subscribe to our email newsletter here or in the footer of any page on our website.


A Fresh, New Website with You in Mind

We are proud to announce the launch of the newly redesigned Play Like a Girl website, iplaylikeagirl.org. This redesigned site offers quick and easy access to essential information and features while offering a more comprehensive understanding of Play Like a Girl’s mission and program offerings. The website also offers updated information on news and press releases, participant testimonials, board member profiles and volunteer opportunities. Updated blog posts will include topics centered around health, confidence and leadership, as well as key industry highlights and news in the STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) and sports fields.

The primary objectives of our site development effort were focused on aesthetics, simplifying our content, increasing the visibility of our programs and improving the user experience. The new website has a clean uncluttered design, improved functionality and enhanced rich content focused on the organization’s mission to harness the natural properties of sport to propel young women into male-dominated careers at the intersection of STEM and sports. The new design also allows for streamlined menus, clear navigation and a responsive layout for all platforms.

“We are excited about our new website launch and the robust information it provides for participants, donors, partners, volunteers and media to better understand Play Like a Girl’s mission,” said Dr. Kimberly Clay, CEO of Play Like a Girl. “We believe that this new site will allow our visitors to have a very informative experience as we continue to grow and increase our online presence.”

In addition to the updated design and layout, the following new content and functions have been implemented in the new site:

  • Locations — It's easier than ever to find a Club, Camp or other Play Like a Girl program or event on our new locations page. To join a club, simply contact the Club coach at the email provided. Or, start a Club or host a Camp for girls in your community by clicking the respective button from the bottom of the page.
  • Get Inspired — Become an advocate for the power of STEM and sports to help girls reach their full potential by sharing your own stories and experiences participating in or coaching a Club, hosting a Camp or volunteering with a program or event. Our new blog highlights your stories from the field in new ways, bringing your stories closer to donors and inspiring others to stay in the game just like you.
  • Fundraise — The key business challenge for us right now is more repeatable, sustainable revenue so we've included new ways to genuinely engage with supporters to raise funds, increase awareness and reach new donors, especially focused on creating campaigns that encourage you to ask your friends and relatives to donate to Play Like a Girl.
  • Quick Links — While on any given page, you can now access the following key links from the footer or bottom of the page: Get Involved, Read Our Blog, Meet Our Team, Partner with Us, Press, Financials, Contact Us, Speaker Requests and Get Our Emails.

The new website will be updated on a regular basis with news of event announcements, program activity, corporate milestones, blog articles and press releases. Additional features including an online store and resource center on the backend for Club coaches and Camp hosts will be added over the course of several weeks.

Please explore the website and sign up for direct emails from us by adding your email address to the newsletter subscription box anywhere on the site. Your feedback is very important to us as we strive to develop a website that is valuable to you. Submit any questions, comments and concerns to us at www.iplaylikeagirl.org/contact-us/.

A special thanks to web developer and designer Georges Etienne of 84studios.net and the Huckleberry Designs and Social Cake teams for participating in the redesign process.